The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association
of Colleges and Schools is the recognized regional accrediting body in
the eleven U.S. Southern states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana,
Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia)
and in Latin America for those institutions of higher education that award
associate, baccalaureate, master's or doctoral degrees. The Commission
on Colleges is the representative body of the College Delegate Assembly
and is charged with carrying out the accreditation process. The College
Delegate Assembly, which consists of one voting representative for each
of approximately 800 member institutions, elects the 77-member Commission.
The U.S. Secretary of Education recognizes accreditation by the Commission
on Colleges in establishing eligibility of higher education institutions
to participate in programs authorized under Title IV of the 1992 Higher
Education Amendments and other federal programs.
Accreditation is concerned principally with the improvement
of educational quality throughout the region and ensuring to the public
that institutions meet established regional standards. Accreditation of
an institution by the Commission on Colleges signifies that the institution
has a purpose appropriate to higher education and has resources, programs
and services sufficient to accomplish its purpose on a continuing basis.
Accreditation by the Commission on Colleges is the result
of thorough and careful evaluation of the educational quality of the institution.
This qualitative evaluation depends heavily on the collective professional
judgment of the faculty and administrative staff of the institution during
the self-study process, peer review by a visiting committee, and final
evaluation by the Commission. Professional judgment in the peer review
process goes beyond a simple compliance audit of the minimum requirements
in the Criteria and provides for quality assurance in accreditation.
The task of accreditation is related to the traditional
public philosophy of the United States-that a free people can and ought
to govern themselves and that they best do so through a representative,
flexible and responsive system. Accordingly, the purposes of accreditation
can best be accomplished through a voluntary association of educational
There are many issues to be considered at the regional
level that might not be resolved as effectively in a state or national
association. This does not in any way limit cooperation and exchange of
ideas with other regional and professional accrediting associations which
are largely parallel in aims and functions.
Regional accrediting agencies accredit the total institution.
The accreditation of professional schools, divisions, departments or programs
within complex institutions may be provided by other accrediting organizations.
However. it is the responsibility of the Commission on Colleges to evaluate
the work of specialized schools, divisions, departments or programs, even
though they are accredited by the appropriate professional agencies. It
is the prerogative of the Commission to accept or reject the evaluations
of such agencies.
The Commission on Colleges supports the right of an institution
to pursue its established educational purpose; the right of faculty members
to teach, investigate and publish freely; and the right of students to
have opportunities for learning. However, the exercise of these rights
must not interfere with the overriding obligation of the institution to
offer its students a sound education leading to recognized certificates
or degrees. Thus, criteria and procedures for accreditation have been developed
which are used in evaluating an institution's educational effectiveness,
defined in the broadest sense to include not only instruction, but also
effectiveness in research and public service where these are significant
components of an institution's purpose.
Initially and periodically, each member institution is
required to conduct a self-study, which is subsequently evaluated at the
institution by a committee of peer educators. This requirement helps ensure
that an institution meets established standards of quality and that it
evaluates the extent to which its educational goals are being met. The
successful fulfillment of this requirement, along with demonstrated compliance
with the Criteria for Accreditation and the Conditions of Eligibility,
results in initial accreditation or reaffirmation of accreditation.
The self-study program, begun by the Commission on Colleges
in 1957, has proven successful in strengthening higher education in the
South. Once each decade, member institutions, accredited by the Commission,
conduct comprehensive self-examinations from which are formulated recommendations
for future improvements. The studies involve participation by the faculty,
administrative officers, staff, students and trustees in a close examination
of the institution. At the culmination of the study, a visiting committee
of peers from other institutions assesses the educational strength of the
institution. The self-study and subsequent visiting committee evaluation
rely on the qualitative judgment of professionals in the higher education
The Commission on Colleges is particularly concerned with
follow-up procedures and often requires a progress report resulting from
the self-study and committee visit. The Commission reserves the right,
with due notification to institutions involved, to make special studies
of and visits to member institutions when circumstances warrant. During
the interval between reaffirmation committee visits to each institution
which provides vocational education or training, the Commission will make
at least one unannounced on-site inspection for the purpose of determining
whether the institution has the personnel, facilities, and resources it
claimed to have either during its previous on-site review or in subsequent
reports to the Commission.
Accreditation is specific to an institution, is based
on conditions existing at the time of the most recent evaluation, and is
not transferable. When an institution changes the nature of its affiliation
or its ownership, a substantive change review is required. (See Commission
policy and procedure documents pertaining to substantive changes.)
The Commission's philosophy of accreditation precludes
denial of membership to a degree-granting institution of higher education
on any ground other than, in the professional judgment of peer reviewers,
failure to conduct an acceptable self-study, failure to meet the Conditions
of Eligibility, failure to comply with the Criteria for Accreditation
established by the College Delegate Assembly, or failure to comply with
the policies and procedures of the Commission. The Commission on Colleges
applies the Criteria uniformly to applicant, candidate and member
institutions regardless of type of institution.
In accordance with the procedures described in the Commission
policy entitled "Appeals Procedures of the College Delegate Assembly,"
when an institution has grounds for appeal in the accreditation process,
the chief executive officer of the institution may submit to the Executive
Director a request for an appeal. The Executive Director will then arrange
for a hearing according to established appeals procedures.
Commitment and Responsibilities in the Accreditation Process
The effectiveness of self-regulatory accreditation
depends upon an institution's acceptance of certain responsibilities, including
involvement in and commitment to the accreditation process.
1.1.1 An institution is required to conduct a self-study
at the interval specified by the Commission and, at the conclusion of the
self-study, accept an honest and forthright peer assessment of institutional
strengths and weaknesses.
1.1.2 The Commission requires that the self-study assess
every aspect of the institution; involve personnel from all segments of
the institution, including faculty, staff, students, administration and
governing boards; and provide a comprehensive analysis of the institution,
identifying strengths and weaknesses. In addition, the Commission requires
an adequate institutional follow-up plan to address issues identified in
1.1.3 An institution must be committed to participation
in the activities and decisions of the Commission. This commitment includes
a willingness to participate in the decision-making processes of the Commission
and adherence to all policies and procedures, including those for reporting
changes within the institution. Only if institutions accept seriously the
responsibilities of membership will the validity and vitality of the accreditation
process be ensured.
1.1.4 An institution of higher education is committed
to the search for knowledge and its dissemination.
1.1.5 Integrity in the pursuit of knowledge is expected
to govern the total environment of an institution.
1.1.6 Each member institution is responsible for ensuring
integrity in all operations dealing with its constituencies, in its relations
with other member institutions, and in its accreditation activities with
the Commission on Colleges.
1.1.7 Each institution must provide the Commission
access to all parts of its operation and to complete and accurate information
about the institution's affairs, including reports of other accrediting,
licensing and auditing agencies.
1.1.8 In the spirit of collegiality, institutions are
expected to cooperate fully during all aspects of the process of evaluation:
preparations for site visits, the site visit itself, and the follow up
to the site visit.
1.1.9 Institutions are also expected to provide the Commission
or its representatives with information requested and to maintain an atmosphere
of openness and cooperation during evaluations, enabling evaluators to
perform their duties with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
1.1.10 Each participating institution must be in compliance
with its program responsibilities under Title IV of the 1992 Higher Education
Amendments. Failure to comply with Title IV responsibilities will be considered
when an institution is reviewed for initial membership or continued accreditation.
In reviewing an institution's compliance with these program responsibilities,
the Commission will rely on documentation forwarded to it by the Secretary
1.1.11 Each institution seeking candidacy, membership
or reaffirmation with the Commission on Colleges must document its
compliance with the Conditions of Eligibility as outlined in Section 1.4.
1.2 Application of the Criteria
The Criteria for Accreditation applies to all institutional
programs and services wherever located or however delivered. It is designed
to guide institutions in all stages of membership?from
initial application through initial accreditation or reaffirmation of accreditation.
Compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation is intended to help
an institution achieve overall effectiveness and to ensure the quality
of its educational programs. The Commission on Colleges shall apply the
Criteria to all applicant. candidate and member institutions regardless
of type of institution, whether for-profit, not-for-profit, private or
public. The Commission grants or reaffirms accreditation only to institutions
which comply with the Criteria.
1.2.1 An institution must refrain from making a
substantive change, defined as a significant modification in the nature
or scope of an institution or its programs, except in accordance with the
Commission's "General Substantive Change Policy for Accredited Institutions"
and its attendant procedures.
1.2.2 All existing or planned activities must
be reported according to the policies, procedures and guidelines of the
Commission on Colleges and must be in compliance with the Criteria.
If an institution fails to follow the procedures outlined in the above
policy, its total accreditation will be placed in jeopardy.
The Commission on Colleges takes no position on
collective bargaining agreements, neither encouraging nor discouraging
them. When an institution's purpose, policies or procedures are modified
by collective bargaining agreements, the modifications do not affect the
application of the Criteria, the self-study, the evaluation, or the reporting
processes. The impact of a collective bargaining agreement will be included
in the accreditation process when appropriate. When accreditation-related
recommendations or suggestions are sent to an institution, they are intended
to strengthen the total institution, not to influence collective bargaining
The Commission on Colleges maintains a policy and procedure
for considering formal complaints regarding member or candidate institutions.
(See Commission policy statement "Complaints Against Institutions").
1.2.3 Each institution must have adequate procedures
for addressing written student complaints.
The Commission evaluates not only compliance with specific
criteria but also the effectiveness of the institution as a whole and the
environment in which teaching and learning occurs. Assessment of the overall
effectiveness of an institution derived through the peer evaluation process,
rather than simple compliance with specific criteria, shall be an overriding
factor in the Commission's determination of whether to confer, or to continue,
the accredited status of an institution. While peer evaluators representing
the Commission must apply professional judgment in assessing compliance
with the Criteria and assessing overall effectiveness, the final
interpretation of the Criteria rests with the Commission.
1.3 Separately Accredited Units
Accreditation of an institution includes all of its units
wherever located. A unit of an institution may be separately accredited
if a significant portion of responsibility and decision-making authority
for its educational activities lies within the unit and not in other units
of the institution or system.
It is the responsibility of the Commission on Colleges
to determine, following consultation with the chief executive officer of
the institution, whether the institution will be considered for accreditation
as a whole or whether its units will be considered for separate accreditation,
and how the evaluation will be conducted. A unit of an institution or system
is eligible for separate accreditation if it is evident that it has a significant
degree of autonomy and possesses the attributes which will enable it to
comply with the requirements of the Criteria for Accreditation.
A unit is required to apply for separate accreditation or to maintain
separate membership if, in the judgment of the Commission, the unit exercises
this level of autonomy.
If an institution seeks separately accredited status for
one of its units, it must notify the Executive Director of the Commission
on Colleges of its intent and follow procedures established by the Commission.
In all cases, the Commission on Colleges reserves the right to determine
the accreditation status of separate units of an institution.
1.4 Conditions of Eligibility
1.4.1 Any institution seeking candidacy must document
its compliance with each of the thirteen Conditions of Eligibility to be
authorized initiation of a self-study, or to be awarded candidacy or candidacy
1.4.2 In addition, the institution must provide
evidence that it is capable of complying with all requirements of the Criteria
and that it will be in compliance by the end of the period allowed for
1.4.3 The Conditions of Eligibility are basic qualifications
which an institution of higher education must meet to be accredited
by the Commission on Colleges. They establish a threshold of development
required of an institution seeking initial or continued accreditation by
the Commission and reflect the Commission's basic expectations of candidate
and member institutions.
1.4.4 Compliance with the Conditions is not sufficient
to warrant accreditation or reaffirmation of accreditation. Accredited
institutions must also demonstrate compliance with the Criteria
for Accreditation which holds institutions to appropriately higher
standards of quality.
126.96.36.199 In obtaining or maintaining accreditation with
the Commission on Colleges, an institution agrees to the following:
a. That it will comply with the Criteria
for Accreditation of the College Delegate Assembly consistent with
the policies and procedures of the Commission on Colleges.
b. That the Commission on Colleges,
at its discretion, may make known to any agency or member of the public
requiring such information, the nature of any action, positive or negative,
regarding the institution's status with the Commission.
c. That it will comply with Commission
requests, directives, decisions and policies, and will make complete, accurate
and honest disclosure. Failure to do so is sufficient reason, in and of
itself, for the Commission to impose a sanction, or to deny or revoke candidacy
188.8.131.52 The institution must have formal authority
from an appropriate government agency or agencies located within the geographic
jurisdiction of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award
184.108.40.206 The institution must have a governing board
of at least five members, which has the authority and duty to ensure that
the mission of the institution is implemented.
220.127.116.11.1 The governing board is the legal body
responsible for the institution. Evidence must be provided that
the board is an active policy-making body for the institution.
18.104.22.168.2 The board is ultimately responsible
for ensuring that the financial resources of the institution are used to
provide a sound educational program.
22.214.171.124.3 The board must not be controlled by a
minority of board members or by organizations or interests separate from
126.96.36.199.4 The presiding officer of the board must
have no contractual, employment, or personal or familial financial interest
in the institution.
188.8.131.52.5 The majority of the other voting members must
have no contractual, employment, or personal or familial financial interest
in the institution.
184.108.40.206.6 The bylaws of the board or other legal documents
must ensure appropriate continuity in the board membership, usually
by staggered terms of adequate length. The bylaws or other legal documents
must ensure the independence of the board. Amendment of the bylaws
must occur only by vote of the board after reasonable deliberation.
220.127.116.11 The institution must have a chief executive
officer whose primary responsibility is to the institution. The chief executive
officer must not be the presiding officer of the board.
18.104.22.168 The institution must be in operation and
have students enrolled in degree programs at the time of the committee
22.214.171.124 The institution must offer one or more
degree programs based on at least two academic years at the associate level,
at least four academic years at the baccalaureate level, or at least one
academic year at the post-baccalaureate level.
126.96.36.199.1 The institution may make arrangements for some
instruction to be provided by other accredited institutions or entities
through contracts or consortia. However, the institution itself must
provide instruction for all coursework required for at least one degree
program at each level at which it awards degrees.
188.8.131.52.2 Any alternative approach to meeting this
requirement must be approved by the Commission on Colleges.
184.108.40.206.3 In all cases, the institution must be able to
demonstrate that it evaluates all aspects of its educational programs.
220.127.116.11.4 The institution's degree programs must be compatible
with its stated purpose and based upon fields of study appropriate to higher
education. Institutions may experiment in developing and defining new fields
of study, but the Commission cannot evaluate for membership an institution
that offers only programs which represent fields of study that are outside
of the expertise of the Commission's accredited institutions.
18.104.22.168 The institution must have a clearly defined,
published statement of purpose appropriate to an institution of higher
22.214.171.124 The institution must have an appropriate
plan, as well as a functioning planning and evaluation process, which identifies
and integrates projected educational, physical and financial development,
and incorporates procedures for program review and institutional improvement.
126.96.36.199 The institution must have published admission
policies compatible with its stated purpose.
188.8.131.52 All undergraduate degree programs of the institution
must include a substantial component of general education courses
at the collegiate level.
184.108.40.206.1 For degree completion in associate programs,
the component must constitute a minimum of 15 semester hours or
equivalent quarter hours and for baccalaureate programs, a minimum of 30
semester hours or equivalent quarter hours.
220.127.116.11.2 The credit hours must be drawn from
each of the following areas: humanities/fine arts, social/behavioral sciences,
and natural sciences/mathematics.
18.104.22.168.3 The courses must be designed to ensure breadth
of knowledge and must not be narrowly focused on those skills, techniques
and procedures peculiar to a particular occupation or profession.
22.214.171.124 The number of full-time faculty members must
be adequate to provide effective teaching, advising and scholarly or creative
126.96.36.199.1 In each major in a degree program, there must
be at least one full-time faculty member with responsibility for supervision
and coordination of the major. In those degree programs for which the institution
does not identify a major, this requirement applies to a curricular area
188.8.131.52 The institution must have sufficient learning
resources or, through formal agreements or appropriate technology, ensure
the provision of and ready access to adequate learning resources and services
to support the courses, programs and degrees offered.
184.108.40.206 The institution must have an adequate
financial base to accomplish its purpose at an acceptable level of quality
on a continuing basis.
220.127.116.11.1 The institution must provide financial
statements and related documents (as specified in Section 6.3.6) which
accurately and appropriately represent the total operation of the institution.
18.104.22.168.2 An institution, whether a part of a system
or not, which is seeking initial candidacy for membership, candidacy renewal
or initial membership, must include in its application separate
institutional audits and management letters for its three most recent fiscal
years, including that for the fiscal year ending immediately prior to the
date of the submission of the application.
22.214.171.124.3 Further, it must have available the
audit and management letter for the most recent fiscal year ending immediately
prior to any committee visit for candidacy, candidacy renewal, or initial
126.96.36.199.4 These audits must be conducted
by independent certified public accountants or an appropriate governmental
188.8.131.52.5 An applicant or candidate institution must
not show an annual or cumulative operating deficit at any time during
the application process or at any time during candidacy.
1.5 Initial Membership
An institution seeking initial membership (accreditation),
in addition to fulfilling requirements outlined in the Criteria,
must document its compliance with all Conditions of Eligibility
and have been in operation i.e., have, without interruption, enrolled
students in degree programs, through at least one complete degree program
cycle and have graduated at least one class at the level of the highest
degree offered prior to action by the Commission on Colleges.
1.6 Representation of Status
An institution must be accurate in reporting
to the public its status and relationship with the Commission. In catalogs,
brochures and advertisements a member institution must describe
its relationship with the Commission only according to the following
(Name of institution) is accredited by the Commission
on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (1866
Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097: Telephone number 404-679-4500)
to award (name specific degree levels).
For institutions in Candidacy status:
(Name of institution) is a Candidate for Accreditation
with the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges
and Schools (1866 Southern Lane. Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097: Telephone
number 404-679-4500) to award (name specific degree levels).
(Note: Effective January 1996, candidacy
for substantive change will no longer be a Commission status, except for
those institutions currently candidates at a new degree levels. Therefore,
member institutions which are current candidates at new degree levels must
continue to use the following statement:
(Name of institution) is accredited
by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and
Schools (1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097: Telephone number
404-679-4500) to award (name specific degree levels) and is a Candidate
for Accreditation to award the (name specific degree level).
No statement may be made about possible future accreditation
status with the Commission on Colleges. The logo or seal of the Southern
Association of Colleges and Schools must not be used by the institution.